Common Equine Dental Problems

TriadanhorseEquine Dentistry: What You Should Know About Your Horse’s Teeth

Horses have been around for over 55 million years  and have evolved over time to better adapt to their homeland terrain. It is said that the horse’s mouth evolved into the mouth it currently has about 15-20 million years ago. Presently the horse’s mouth is designed to graze, rather than chew up the rough or rocky material that used to be provided by the land years ago. The horse’s hypsodont teeth are continuously erupting into the horse’s jaw, while the horse is always wearing their teeth down with their specific sideways chewing pattern. This erupting pattern can create some unique problems in the horse’s mouth if their dental patterns aren’t maintained properly and/or if they’re not seen on a regular basis by a veterinarian or certified dental practitioner.

 Some common dental problems that are seen in a horse’s mouth are:

Hooks- These are sharp protrusions on the tooth that occur when the horse has an overbite, under bite or an abnormal wear pattern when they’re chewing. These can become larger over time and without proper management. They can cause ulcers by poking into the horse’s cheeks or tongue and can cause a lot of oral pain.

Ramps- This wear pattern occurs on the premolar most commonly and is described as looking like a ski ramp. This abnormal wear pattern can stick into the cheeks or tongue of the horse, causing them significant pain if they aren’t taken care of promptly. Also, if you ride your horse this can be a big problem because if and when the horse is bitted that can cause more pain as well.

Step Mouth- This type of abnormal occlusion is caused by a tooth missing or mis-spaced tooth on the opposite side of the horse’s mouth. This means that one molar has grown in a different pattern or “height” than the cheek tooth that it is located next to, causing a step-like appearance in the horse’s mouth.

Wave Mouth- This can be a serious problem in a horse’s mouth, as they will not be able to grind their food properly to get all of the possible nutrients that they need from their feed. This is caused by one or more teeth in the dental arcade that are growing at a higher rate of speed than the rest of the teeth. This can be caused by an abnormal wear pattern when the horse is chewing or because the horse isn’t getting enough roughage to wear down the teeth properly on a regular basis.

Shear Mouth- This is normally caused by too MUCH wear on the horse’s tooth and sharp angling off of the teeth. This can cause a sharp edge to form in the dental pattern and can wear an angle down to a possible 75 degrees. This can cause some serious pain and abnormal chewing patterns in the horse’s mouth.

Supernumerary or Extra Teeth- These extra teeth are rare to find, but when they do occur they can also cause some inefficient wear patterns. These patterns can be managed with either a tooth being pulled or by regular dental management routines.

So how do you know if your horse is having problems with their teeth? There are many symptoms that you can look for on a daily basis that could mean that your horse is having a dental problem. A few of the symptoms are:

  • Head tossing/shaking
  • Drooling
  • Foul smelling odor from the mouth
  • Inability to chew food
  • Weight loss
  • Not wanting the bit in their mouth
  • Difficulty/inability to ride the horse
  • Head shy
  • Tongue lolling (drooping, dangling)

Some of these symptoms are very serious and need to be taken care of promptly. When considering dental care for your horse be sure to choose wisely. Consider whether you want an inexperienced person working on your horse’s mouth or someone practicing illegally on your horse; such as with sedation or power tools. Some states do not allow a dental practitioner to use sedation OR power tools on a horse’s mouth unless they are a licensed veterinarian. Here at River Road Veterinary Clinic we provide the best possible dental healthcare for your Equine companions. Please call or email us to make your appointment today!

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